17 November, 2020 § Leave a comment
When you write those two most satisfying words “The End”, it is a bittersweet moment. Getting to that point could represent a couple of days if you’re Stephen King or over a year’s worth of sweating out characters and plots to finish your novel. But the savvy writer knows that moment of celebration is the forerunner to lots more hard work: the revising and editing process where you put your words through a fine sieve to reveal the gems and wash out the mud. It’s a tough task if you’re in love with your word magic. No one wants to sacrifice their babies, but the reader wants you to do that so you create not just a well-written book but a well-read one.
A very useful presentation on what to keep in mind when revising and editing your own novel or non-fiction piece is on video with a series of authors and editors offering expert tips and ideas and how to make the process easier and more productive for you.
Key points …
- be willing to cut anything to strengthen the story
- read your dialogue out loud
- use action verbs to drive the story
- avoid passive writing
- watch “I felt like” and convert it into descriptive (show v tell)
- ensure all paragraphs and scenes are in sequence
- make sure characters are consistent throughout
- once you finish your first draft, put it aside for a while
- read other people’s books and flag ideas/phrases/descriptions that impact you and learn how the writer raised your emotion
- go back to your book and flag what’s worked well in your story
- look for content issues first
- review style, voice and scene issues and note what to improve/cut
- revisit the third time and go over punctuation, structure, complicated sentences etc
- now go back and revise using your flags and notes
- consider copy-editing as you go eg read what wrote day before and notice simple errors
- wait until the end for structural editing – much easier to edit something that’s finished
- tools for editing depends on the type of edit
- spell check
- grammar check – automated and manual – look for obvious issues like that/which
- recognise the limitations of any tool you use
- beware of overusing adverbs (eg very, really etc)
- make sure the character’s voices are distinctive
- get someone else to help critique to pick up any misses from reading and reviewing your own work
Those are just my summary notes – watch the video for more detail, especially the first 2-3 sessions.
Write – revise – edit – rewrite – revise – edit – rewrite – revise edit … until you’ve polished the best book you can produce. Of course, if you snag a traditional publishing contract then some of the work will be done for you, the than the writing. If you self publish, the more you revise and edit, the better your readers experience will be. A professional editor is valuable if you can spring the money for it: if not, do the work.
1 October, 2020 § Leave a comment
I discovered Bloody Scotland by accident, and I’m glad I did.
It’s a bloody wonderful festival chock-full of crime writers including luminaries such as Val McDermid, Lee Child and more. There’s nothing wee abood it!
If you want to get your fill of intense input on writing and reading crime – tap into the minds of these generous soles.
You can watch replays of the virtual sessions on their YouTube Channel. Here is the excellent opener and there is a full playlist of talks available.
WARNING – these vids are only live until the end of October 2020.
Get to it!
And then start planning your trip to Scotland for 2021’s festival … Covid-19 permitting!
15 March, 2020 § Leave a comment
Radio drama series were a welcome form of entertainment before television took precedence in homes.
We’ve had blockbuster T.V series and movies. Visual entertainment continued but as with many things, evolution keeps changing the landscape.
More recently audiobooks and podcasts have surged in popularity, especially for those on long commutes.
The circle turns and the new kid on the block is audio fiction and it’s already capturing attention and funding from big names.
Not quite radio drama, audio fiction is not dissimilar. Plays produced and transmitted without visuals.
Read more about here …
26 January, 2020 § Leave a comment
A friend of mine was chuffed to get a guernsey in a UK writing mag. He had an article published about playing to your strengths.
Now, Greg provides great advice from his own experience and you can definitely benefit from that.
But think about the achievement of having an article you wrote being published on a broader stage and subtly promoting your writing and books.
Clever man, our Greg.
Always have a purpose in what you do, while writing for your audience.
Go read his article.
Work out what you can take away from it.
Note the strategy and emulate it when the time is right.
11 January, 2020 § Leave a comment
Writing challenges are terrific to spark your productivity and focus. It doesn’t matter what kind of challenge – just focused action with butt in chair doingness.
If you want to get the best out of any challenge, here are two key things you need to do.
Schedule the time
That’s right. Drag out your trusty diary – digital or paper – and plug in the times to be allocated to this challenge. Then stick to it! Some challenges will have specific times allocated where everyone in the challenge gets on a call or skype in or whatever.
Check the times and dates, double check any time-zone calculations if needed, and mark those times out in your diary. They are non-negotiable appointments with yourself.
Here’s a tip – sync all your diaries so you don’t miss the time!
Set up a reminder to alert you ahead of time to get ready. You know, grab your coffee, get your papers together, kick start the computer, sharpen the pencil, grab the sign-in details and chocolate (always chocolate).
Decide on your priorities
It helps to know ahead of time what you’ll use this time for.Obviously if you sign up for a 30 day squat challenge, you know exactly what you’ll be doing. But in writing, we have so many choices 🙂 Will you work on your book, your book front matter, your back matter, your author platform pieces, your quarterly planning schedule …?
As soon as you sign up for the challenge, write down what prompted you to do so. Usually, there is something in the back of your mind, prompting you to join, that said ‘this will help me to …’. That. Write that down. And if you can’t remember, write down a shopping list of the things you need to be getting on with. Then pick which is most important and can be progressed in the time frame you’ve got. Notice I didn’t say completed. It’s about moving forward. If you can complete something, all the better. But don’t overly stress yourself.
Know what you are going to work on before you start the challenge.
30 Writing Challenge Activity Ideas
Here’s a grab-bag of activities and tasks that might inspire you to get underway or done during a challenge.
- write a chapter in your book
- brainstorm chapter titles and choose the best ones
- mock up an idea of your cover design before getting it done professionally
- review your book notes and refine any ideas
- create a book plan if you don’t have one
- outline your blurb
- draft your book’s premise
- set up your front matter eg dedication, acknowledgement, disclaimer etc
- sketch out your characters – protagonist, antagonist, others
- make notes about your setting to stay consistent
- list a set of questions your non-fiction book will answer for the reader
- prepare a speech you plan to give eg at a local library book launch
- write up a blog post or ideas for a series of blog posts
- write an essay or an article for publication
- create a series of social media posts
- prepare a publishing calendar including social media, blog, newsletter
- think up some swag ideas to sell on Etsy then create them
- put together a timeline to finish and publish your book
- write a set of course notes and materials
- draft a description and keywords for your Amazon listing
- compile a book bible including mock cover, and all elements (setting, characters, chapters, messages)
- prepare a set of questions you’d want to answer in an interview about your book
- create a freebie lead magnet, giveaway, reader/subscriber gift – journal, planner, checklist, quiz, workbook, recipes, extra stories about characters – be imaginative
- write a prequel to your book series
- generate ideas for a pen name and decide on one
- set up digital spaces for your author platform eg website, facebook, etc
- draft and finalise your author bio
- check your online branding is consistent across platforms
- prepare for your book-signing event (include extra pens)
- create a calendar of events/activities for the year
Note that a writing challenge doesn’t have to be about the act of writing. It can be, but if you are also a self-publisher then there are lots of moving parts to distribute and market your books. In that case, there are even more activities you could take action on.
Ideally, you are set up with a plan and are working towards an end goal. If not, then any activity that enhances what you are doing is good. Better is when you select tasks to tie on with your overarching plan. That’s why you need to set your priorities before heading in to a challenge. Work hard on the right things.
Of course, you don’t need a collective writing challenge: do a challenge on your own. Set a specific day and timeframe, say Thursday from 1-3pm. Mark that in your diary. Decide what exactly you will work on, say drafting a table of contents. Note that in your diary too. Decide where you’ll do it and get everything ready before your time starts so you can hit the ground running. Get into the routine of doing a self-challenge a week and you can make progress faster on things that matter.
I challenge you to join a challenge or set your own. DO it now. Your future writing productivity will thank you for it.
28 November, 2019 § Leave a comment
Another literary legend lost.
His death last Sunday is punctuated by the volumes of words from this prodigious talent. A critic, intellectual, broadcaster, presenter and ever-improving poet James has left an indelible mark on Australia and the world.
The ‘kid from Kogarah’ who traversed those suburbs a couple of decades before I lived there, managed to propel himself from suburban life to being a player on a far larger stage.
There were elements of James’ personality and behaviour that rankled yet none can deny the way his words leapt into your soul like a burr in a shoe demanding to be noticed.
He was someone I’m happy to have admired from afar. I suspect had I been a dinner guest I would have been swallowed like a minnow by his gigantic mind and acerbic wit, being left as pulp to be rinsed off the dinner plate.
Above all else, poetry was his literary love.
Read some of Clive James.
Watch his videos.
Take on board his turn of phrase.
See the effect his words have on your writing.
Make that your tribute to him.
12 October, 2019 § Leave a comment
J.K. Rowling has created arguably the most fantastical world in contemporary times.
Her success in the Potter franchise is widely acknowledged.
Writing fantasy fiction in any form has not been my interest even though I love Harry Potter and the entire series. I was as captivated as any child, reading those books. Even though it’s not my genre as a writer, I respect Rowling’s genius in creating her amazing world.
If you want to get a glimpse of what’s involved in creating such a world then reading these insights is worth your while.
It’s through the detail and integrity of place and people that Rowling has captured her world for all to share.
Now, if you want to learn from a highly successful writer, then this video is one to watch.
Early on you will see that she was passionate about creating her world (even if she did get the train station wrong). The completeness of her notes and drawings and scribbles is a testament to someone who lived her imagination so continuously.
What you’ll also learn is how disorganised she may seem (though she knows where everything is) and, how focussed she was on the minutiae of her world to make it authentic.
Note: she redid chapter one some 15 times until she felt she had it right. (And I groan at doing my first edit!). It’s a great reminder to analyse your story to make sure you’re not giving away the plot too early and to feel ok letting some of your words go.
“It felt as though I was carving a book out of this mass of notes …condensing and editing and sculpting.” If you have enough material, you have the luxury of deciding what to leave out, what to put where and how to best massage your story.
Watch the video and make sure you take notes. Learn from the greats.
5 October, 2019 § Leave a comment
I love a good writing group. And there are plenty of them. Taree Scribblers is one.
Writing groups run along similar lines but do it differently which is why one’s experience of a writing group varies from one to another. Much of the variation between writing groups is down to both the process they follow and the mix of people in the room.
Even though it was a 170km round trip to head to Taree, it was definitely worth the effort.
When you join up somewhere new, you want to feel welcomed and the Taree Scribblers crew did that. A friendly and inclusive mob of writers.
When you join a writing group you want to feel that you gain a benefit in some way.
For some, it is simply to escape the isolation of writing alone and have a writerly chat over a cuppa. For others, it’s getting their work validated through reading or critique. Others prefer to learn something through a workshop or lesson on some aspect of their craft. Yet others, it’s about practising their craft through writing sessions or exercises.
Taree Scribblers covers all those bases.
At the session I attended there was a brief cover of general business to update the membership on things such as competitions, publications, financials etc.
Read Your Writing Out Loud
Then onto reading of short pieces for those who wanted to play. Each month they set a theme word or phrase and I’d been forewarned so had my 500 words ready. When you read aloud there’s always something of the shy 10-year-old that pops up and cringes wondering if it’s boring or tiresome or inadequate. No such feelings at Taree Scribblers. Each piece was warmly received: all writers were of a confident and capable standard. I felt my piece said ‘I deserve a place at your table’. It was my credibility stake in the ground. Once I’d heard others, I knew I could learn from this group of published and polished writers.
After a short tea break it was onto a workshop session covering how competitions are judged and how to prepare your submission for success. This was an excellent session and I wish I’d realised it was on – I had to leave early for another appointment but would have made arrangements to stay for the whole session. Anything run by Jacqueline Winn is worth sticking around for!
So for my money, I’ll be back. Taree Scribblers is now a regular on my calendar.
Check out writer’s groups in your neck of the woods and get along to see how well it matches your needs as a writer.
Taree Scribblers meet the second Wednesday of the month in Taree from 10-12.30/1pm.